7 exercises we used to figure out our company’s values

Session 1 (one hour)

Exercise 1: Adjectives

We asked each other to think of a person in our lives. Then, we each listed off five words that would describe them, positive or negative. We put one adjective per sticky note.

Exercise 2: What will make somebody successful here?

Exercise 3: What’s the best part of working here?

Homework Assignment

Exercise 4: What are your personal values?

We sent out a Google Form asking to list our personal values individually. Here was the prompt:

  • Constantly improve
  • Constant learning
  • Never stop learning
  • Constantly reevaluate yourself
  • You can always do better

Session 2 (one hour)

Exercise 5: ALIENS!

  • The alien didn’t know our specific services (websites, apps) or understand acronyms
  • They did speak English and understand basic concepts about business and technology

Exercise 6: Unfair advantages

Final exercise: our 6 word story

And finally, we broke up into teams of 5 and gave ourselves 5 minutes to create a story of our company. The only restriction was that it had to be done in six words or less, in an effort to cut down these concepts to their true essence.

  • Does it inform what we do?
  • Does it highlight how we are unique?
  • Who will do what with this information?

Finally, the output

The activities above left us with so much information: hundreds of stickies, personal values from everyone at the company, six-word stories of who we are, and a much better idea of our differentiators. It was efficient, too: we got all of this in a matter of 2–3 total hours.

1. Build something.

Our guiding principle since day one. We are here to create things. Too many environments and jobs deprive us of the ability to create. Clique should be different. We should have a heavy bias towards action, do hard work, feel a sense of accomplishment regularly, create and experiment in our free time, and have immense pride in our craft.

2. Growth through quality.

When faced with a choice of getting bigger or getting better, we choose to get better. We invest in things that can be permanent: ourselves, our work, our relationships with clients. When we consistently over-deliver, when we’re a little flexible on scope, when we build deep and lasting relationships with people, we have created a salesforce that outstrips anything we could create internally: our clients. To quote Warren Buffett: “We will never trade reputation for money.” We will only grow if we feel like it will improve our work quality — if we are confident it will help us impact more people in a better way. We won’t grow for growth’s sake. (This mindset has helped us grow for 11 straight years 😉).

3. Never stop learning. Or teaching.

We want to be the best at getting better. Technology is the most rapidly evolving industry in the world. To stay on top of it, we have to commit to learning and improving — and not just with words, but with real, tangible investments. We created Clique University and hired a full-time Director of Education to prove this commitment. We aim to create a culture of constant personal growth and regeneration. And we recognize that any minute spent teaching one another will pay itself off tenfold.

4. Be open.

Our success depends on openness. Openness to new ideas. Openness to feedback. Openness to asking for help. Openness to new challenges and technologies. Openness to people from other cultures and experiences and backgrounds. Openness to our days turning out completely different than the way we planned. Be open.

5. Make somebody’s job easier.

When faced with a challenge, we shouldn’t ask how quickly we can hand this off to a colleague or client — we should ask how quickly they’ll be able to get done once we do. That means project managers arming designers with all the information they need to do their best work. That means designers creating clean, crisp files and nice briefs to deliver to engineers. That means engineers not marking something as “done” without providing the context a client needs to understand what happened. It’s a virtuous cycle where we all work to make somebody’s day better and our days are better as a result.

6. Take out the trash.

When hiring, we search for people with entrepreneurial backgrounds and those who take pride in executing in uncertain situations. Entrepreneurial people know that Big Things only come to life when a team pairs high-level thinking with low-level execution. We don’t say “that’s not our job.” We relish in those moments. The companies that experience consistent growth push forward by taking ownership. That also means feeling a personal investment in the success of our clients, and also means embracing the unglamorous stuff that gets stuff done: “taking out the trash” literally and figuratively.

That’s it.

Uncertainty kills action. And when you figure out who you are, and who you are not, and take the time to write it down, you get a lot more certainty. This enables everybody at a company to feel more ownership, to better understand expectations, and to act more boldly.



Partner at Clique Studios (cliquestudios.com), songwriter, other stuff.

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Derek Nelson

Derek Nelson

Partner at Clique Studios (cliquestudios.com), songwriter, other stuff.